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It was asked Is trash talking legal in WSOP?, but my question is different from that post.

There was a hand played between William Kassouf and Stacy Matuson that caused a big controversy at WSOP 2016. It is the first hand in this video.

This video does not show what happened before the river card, however after the river card, Kassouf is table talking normally without anything seeming rude and did not speak directly to what he had or she might have.

After that, supervisor warned him about talking. Kassouf continued normal conversation to Matuson, in my opinion he was not saying anything in violation of the rules.

With tournament Director Jack Effel still at the table Kassouf attempted some sign language apparently trying to say to Matuson "If you show I will Show". At this point in the video Norman Chad speaks up saying:

Now he is talking without words.

After the hand, Jack give Kassouf a one round penalty, saying:

If you stay at your seat and don't leave the table, you will receive a two round penalty.

I find this situation really weird. Talking is a part of poker. It might tilt you, or not.

Is "talking" that influences action illegal? Is there any written rule about it? How did this example "influence" the action?

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  • William Kassouf is probably the most annoying player in the history of the game. He is a master of tilting his opponents. I guarantee this ruling did not happen in isolation. He will have had a history of annoying the players and staff before this hand happened. Sep 26 '16 at 10:08
  • @AndrewBrennan Yeah, he is good about "speaking" but in this example, do you really think that he deserves 1 round penalty? I mean, don't you think it is too much for him? And maybe more interesting, Jack Effel told him he will get 2 round if he doesn't move away from table (with pointing to a penalty box). Sep 26 '16 at 10:29
  • For this one hand it is too much, but I guarantee you it was not just this one hand Sep 26 '16 at 10:32
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    The penalty was fair IMHO because he was told by the official to not speak any more, and he clearly continued to taunt the player. Trash talk is fine in moderation but when you are told to shut up, you should shut up.
    – PaulD
    Sep 27 '16 at 18:05
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Yes talking to influence action is against the rules and people push it. When he announced the pot size it went over the line. By announcing the pot size he was coaching. That is a rule violation. The dealer said cannot influence action.

Yes talking to influence action is done but it needs to be more subtle than that.

From there his excessive chatter was taunting and intended to disrupt the player. It does not have to be rude. If he had said it once then OK. He was was doing it to break her thought process and that is not part of poker.

  1. Any Participant who taunts another Participant through theatrics or gestures or engages in any form of inappropriate behavior intended to disrupt other players in the tournament will be subject to penalty in accordance with Rules 39, 102, and 103.
  2. Participant or staff abuse will not be tolerated. A Participant will incur a penalty up to and including disqualification for any abuse towards another Participant or staff member, and the Participant could be asked to leave the property. Repeated etiquette violations, including but not limited to touching another Participant’s cards or chips, body, or clothing, delay of game and excessive chatter will result in penalties.

Yes you can say stuff to try and tilt someone but not during play like that. "Man that is the third time in row you lost on the river" after play is over is OK.

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This is one of the subjective rules that is rarely enforced, which is probably why it seems surprising for a player to receive a penalty doing something that happens regularly without penalty. The key is that in this case the player was warned multiple times, so it is entirely fair for the penalty to be enforced after ample warning. I'd say that even if the warning itself was unfair!

I suspect the reason the rule is rarely enforced is because people rarely complain about it. For advanced players being on the receiving end of endless banter oftentimes helps, as you have additional information to consider.

Case in point, I once had a non-stop "talker" similar to this while I was contemplating my decision to call or fold with a very mediocre hand that could only beat a bluff. The dealer actually asked the talking player to stop talking, but I said, "No, please let him talk. I enjoy it." (Which by the way, I think put the player a little on edge.) After some thought I figured the only reason he wouldn't stop talking was because he was nervous I might call. I finally decided to raise just in case he had a better mediocre hand than mine, and he folded. He then said something like, "Why you'd wait so long if you were gonna raise?" which I loved because that meant he thought I had a strong hand, which was my exact goal. Neither of us showed. I bring up the hand because I'm pretty sure I would have folded had he not been talking so much, which in this case helped me.

Along the same lines, (and an aside from your question), an interesting take away from that video is a great psychological lesson:

The player has been warned, and risking a penalty, is still talking and/or gesturing. Why would he do that?

No sane person would risk a penalty and/or potential monetary loss for no reason. They only would do this if they are scared of something. Generally people are not "scared" of someone folding, even when they have the nuts. That would be "disappointment" of not extracting as much money from the hand, but not "fear". The only thing to be scared of is losing the hand, and the only way that can possibly happen in this case is if she calls. So it's obvious that she should have called. Note that isn't true at the time he made the bet; it didn't become true until he repeatedly tried to encourage her to call/fold (it doesn't matter which). You could argue maybe if he had a strong hand he would do the same thing using reverse psychology to entice a call, but after being warned to be quiet and still carrying on, I think it's pretty obvious that he was pretty scared of the call, which means she probably should call here.

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